They Became What They Pursued

2 Kings 17:15 (NAS): And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the Lord had commanded them not to do like them.

I came across this wonderful passage while reading the book of 2 Kings. It’s the writer’s assessment of the nation of Israel after being conquered by Assyria and thrown headlong into exile. I was immediately struck by how well constructed and poignantly it was written. How apt it was to be repeated. I admired its literary mastery. It’s short and compact, yet it carries a punch. It’s stated so simply, but it means so much. The truth of it is so clear, so obvious and yet unexpected. It’s startlingly obvious. It’s not like we don’t know that we become what we pursue. Or don’t we? Is it with us as it was with Israel? Is it only in hindsight that we realize our vain pursuits have lead to our vanity?

After my admiration of the adage wore off, I continued to consider the statement. It had a hold of me and I couldn’t understand why. Then the gravity of the context in which it was used returned to me. Vanity is not to be trifled with. Israel doesn’t simply become enamored with themselves. They don’t become a people who look longingly at themselves in the mirror.

2 Kings 17:20 (NAS): The Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight.

Yet their demise was so complete it could be summed up so very casually in the words; they followed vanity, and became vain. How do you come to see what may seem clear only in hindsight? How does our story not end the way Israel’s story ended?

First, let me suggest that we reflect often on the nature of what we are pursuing. Sometimes I know that what I want is vain, but I want it nonetheless. I convince myself that its okay because of the volume of vain pursuits around me. More often than not, my pursuits don’t reveal themselves to be vain; hence the need for reflection. Vanity slips easily in and out of the shadows, avoiding the light of reflection.

Second, I believe we must trust the truth of the passage.

We will become what we pursue. (<–Click to Tweet https://ctt.ac/gyUV0 )

If we follow vanity we will become vain. The pursuit of vain things is not harmless. As with Israel, it leads to destruction, emptiness, and uselessness, only to be removed from the Lord’s sight.

2 Kings 17:20 (NAS): 20 The Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight.

Third, we must know that vanity comes quickly. The brevity of the statement suggests that we become vain suddenly. While we are pursuing vanity, it suddenly apprehends us. And while not choosing to become vain, we find that we have become just that; vain.

Lastly, if we believe, the passage may actually work for us. If it is true that we become what we pursue, what could be said of us if we pursued Christ. Wouldn’t it be more wonderful and poignant if it was said of us,

“They followed Christ and became Christian.”

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Not in the Box

My walk with Christ has left me feeling a bit odd, even amongst a peculiar people. It’s as if the body of Christ is swaying joyfully to the music and I’m unrhythmically searching for the beat. So many of my brother’s in the ministry get in and quickly find a groove. After 10 years, mine still eludes me. My convictions keep me in the body but out pof the flow.

I think others notice too. I hear them struggling to find the words to describe me. Though I’m really not trying to be, I hear repeatedly that my preaching is “deep.” I don’t think it’s always intended to be a complement and I don’t find it flattering.

What confuses me is that few in the body tell me that I’m wrong. In fact, most agree and even encourage me. They simply don’t join me. Although they don’t often say it aloud, they don’t think what I believe works. Its not in rhythm.

What are these things that keep me out of rhythm. Well, here is a short list.

1. I believe that people should be equipped on Sunday mornings through the regular preaching of the word. Sunday morning preaching should be weighty enough to equip.

2. I believe the essential task of preaching is to communicate the author’s intended meaning. To do this, his subject must be my subject. And what he says about it I must also say.

3. A steady dose of topical preaching will not provide a foundation upon which to build an understanding of the faith. The great story of God redeeming all creation for His glory is reduced to our individual struggles and triumphs.

4. We do not trust God enough to teach the righteousness of God is by faith apart from the works of the law. It sounds to much to us like encouraging lawlessness. So, whom the Son has set free is not free indeed.

5. Jesus became a curse for us so that we can never be cursed with a curse, even if we do not tithe. The Church must live by faith too. This we may fear the most.

6. The greatest witness to the power of the Gospel in this culture is an intentionally multiethnic church where people love each other. In this culture, we do most everything together, except worship, and it undermines the truth of the Gospel. But homogeneous church is just easier.

7. Because there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one body of Christ, our faith must be historic and not personal. My relationship with the Lord can be intimate but it cannot be Him and me alone. When I became a believer, I became a member of the body.

You may see now why many don’t believe these things will work. The failure of my church plant is further prove that they may be right. So I continued to struggle with my oddness. But to just sway along would be to do harm to my conscience. Today, however, I believe I have clarity about where I stand. I still feel I’m an oddity, but I understand better. It hit me like a thunderbolt, when I heard it said that to invoke real change you have to think outside the box. That’s when it dawned on me.

I’m just not in the box.